Saturday, June 18, 2011

Race Report: Hog Jog 2011

ORN: 10K, 50:50, 8:11/mile

A different approach today from my usual (geeky) race report; a few quick words and a lot of photos. Hang on!

The Flora Hog Jog is a summer-time running fixture around here. I've run it off and on since the mid 1980s. The race is aptly named in this small, agriculturally-centered town about 20 miles from my home.

They have both a 2 mile and 10K event each year. Last year, I ran the 2 miler hard and jogged the 10K. This year was the reverse. I looked at my recent runs and decided to see if I could carry a steady pace of 8:15/mile for the entire, flat course. So, I drove up early, used the 2 mile race as a warm up and opportunity to take photographs. We had about 20 minutes between races, enough time to switch to a dry shirt, the lighter weight Brooks Adrenalines and to talk with an old friend I hadn't seen in a long time. While humid, an overcast sky kept temps in the mid 70s for most of the race. It was a decent summer day to run.

The photos below will tell more about the course. Suffice it to say, the plan came together. With the Garmin's training feature helping out, I hit mile splits of 8:16, 8:18, 8:13, 8:20, 8:10, 8:00 and the last .2 at 1:33 (a 7:30 pace). I was thrilled. While focused, it didn't feel like a heavy effort. I placed 3rd of 10 in my age group and set a new PR for 10K, by 90 seconds. The previous PR came in November 2005; I was encouraged to think I could add almost 6 years of age and still go faster at some distance.

Enjoy the pix and brief descriptions!

The whole race starts and ends in the Flora City Park, a wonderful small town park with lots of mature trees and a mood of relaxation.

Flora City Park

The Hog Jog T Shirts are a coveted possession by most area runners. They have kept the same logo for decades now...why improve on the perfection of a happy, running pig?

Best T Shirts Ever

They also bring out extra shirts from past years for move, they get snapped up quickly.

The town, all 2000 or so residents, get into this race each year. Several lemonade stands appeared along the course.

Lemonade Stand

Sign up happened smoothly in a covered gazebo on the edge of the park. No expo at the mega-convention center necessary.

Sign Up Gazebo

At the appointed time, we lined up. With just a couple hundred runners, logistics were simple.

Starting Grid-2 Mile Race

While waiting to start, I saw the back of this girl's High School Cross Country shirt...what a terrific slogan!

Great Slogan on T Shirt

As we headed out on the course, lots of folks came outside to cheer on the parade of runners.

Fans Mile 2

Between mile one and two, we actually ran on Easy Street. Yes, we did. Mind you, this Easy Street was only a block long, so it wasn't like we really found financial security.

Easy Street

The fact that Easy Street intersects with Hoop Street here in rural Indiana is most appropriate, given our high regard for the game of basketball.

The local volunteer Fire Department turned out in force to help block traffic at several turns.

Flora Fire Truck

We first headed south of town and spent about 3 miles running along corn fields. This is a very typical landscape of our part of Indiana this time of year.

Running Along Corn Field

And more fans were out to help.

Fans-Mile 3

We eventually made our way back towards the town park. This pleasant, leafy, mature street was our path for the better part of a mile. I love the huge trees in so much of our state.

Leafy Main Street

And more fans cheered.

Fans-Mile 5

And even a dog joined the cheering!

Fans-Mile 6

We hit the finish line next to the gazebo and it was fun to look at my watch and see the time under 51 minutes. I felt strong at the end; it took some effort but not nearly the effort I recall expending in my previous PR over 10K in 2005. Amazing.

Post race, you might expect to see fresh watermelon in the Midwest in June...

Fresh Watermelon

...but only at the Hog Jog do you also get a fresh, hot pork burger when you finish the race!

Pork Burgers on the Grill

They are delicious...I really enjoyed it this year.

A few minutes after I finished, my work colleague Cara came confidently striding in. She was pleased to have powered through her race goal. She also showed her school pride in the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Cara, Joe

A fun day on the prairie. Hope you enjoyed the photos.



Monday, June 13, 2011

How to finish a marathon: Get to the start line

ORN: 5.2 miles, 4/1, slow and easy.

I received in the mail today the 200+ page listing of the Chicago Marathon results from last October. While most of the pages were ads or small-font listing of results (I was deep in the mud on page 103, finisher # 30,127!), one set of facts was quite fascinating to me:

• 45,000 people officially registered for the race
• 38,132 people crossed the starting line (84.7% of registrants)
• 36,088 people crossed the finish line (94.6% of the starters)

Given that registration for this race sold out 7-8 months before race day, these numbers says to me that merely signing up for a race does not mean you will run it. Too many things can happen and get in the way.

But, if you can get yourself to the starting line, you have a very good chance of finishing...even in very warm conditions like this race.

Perhaps good encouragement for folks wanting to know how to finish a marathon...get yourself to the start, uninjured, first and foremost.



Wednesday, June 08, 2011

How to make your own energy gel

Last winter, long-time running pal Eric posted a link to some ultra buddies of his who had experimented with making their own energy gel. These guys wanted to find an alternative to paying $1.25 for a 1 oz foil pouch ($20/pound)which also generates litter. My interest in processes coupled with my general tight-wadded-ness let to curiosity and experimentation. Their posts provided a rough idea of how to emulate the ingredients in many of the popular gels but it weren't repeatable. So, I experimented and here’s the exact recipe you can use right now.

The Specialized Ingredients

The key ingredient in most gels is a carbohydrate called maltodextrin. This base material is sold under a number of trade names, often at nutrition or health food stores. I found one, CarboGain locally. Do your own search. The key thing is to check the label and make sure the content is 100% maltodextrin. It’s a white powder that looks a lot like flour and has virtually no taste to the tongue. This is THE main ingredient. A 2 pound jar will last you quite a while. It cost me about $12 plus local tax.

The other ingredient you’ll need is fructose, often called “fruit sugar”. It’s different from normal sugar. You can often find it near the maltodextrin in the nutrition store. You may also find it in some grocery stores. It sells for a dollar or two per pound.

Maltodextrin, Fructose

The other items you already have or can find at any grocery store.

I've worked up two versions of what I call, for fun, "JoeGel". One flows easily, the other is more pasty, like the gels we buy in foil packs.

The Recipe—Fluid Version

Here’s how you make 4 oz of JoeGel.

½ Cup Maltodextrin
2 Tablespoons Fructose
¼ teaspoon Salt
¼ Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Water
½ teaspoon Vodka or Gin
¼ teaspoon Lemon Juice or other flavoring

Combine Maltodextrin, Fructose and Salt in a bowl. Stir well with a fork to eliminate any lumps. Put water in a small saucepan. Heat water until it steams but do not let it boil; reduce heat to simmer once it steams. Add about 1/3 of the dry contents to the water; stir with fork until all lumps disappear. Add vodka/gin and flavoring. Add another 1/3 of the dry mix, stirring until all lumps disappear. Add the remainder of the dry mix, stirring to dissolve all lumps. When dissolved, remove from heat, pour into a coffee mug and refrigerate. When cooled, the material should flow with the thickness of warm honey. Transfer to final container.

The Recipe—Gelatinous Version

½ Cup plus 1 Tablespoon Maltodextrin
2 Tablespoons Fructose
¼ teaspoon Salt
½ teaspoon Pectin
¼ Cup Water
½ teaspoon Vodka or Gin
¼ teaspoon Lemon Juice or other flavoring

Combine Maltodextrin, Fructose, Salt and Pectin in a bowl. Stir well with a fork to eliminate any lumps. Put water in a small saucepan. Heat water until it steams but do not let it boil; reduce heat to simmer once it steams. Add about 1/3 of the dry contents to the water; stir with fork until all lumps disappear. Add vodka/gin and flavoring. Add another 1/3 of the dry mix, stirring until all lumps disappear. Add the remainder of the dry mix, stirring to dissolve all lumps. When dissolved, remove from heat, pour into a coffee mug and refrigerate overnight. When cooled, the material should have the consistency of cool molasses. Transfer to final container.

How the recipe works

Once you make JoeGel, you’ll see it is merely a suspension of a lot of carbs into a small amount of water. It’s amazing to me just how much dry ingredient dissolves into such a small amount of water. By varying the ratios a bit, you can dial in the concentration best for you. The vodka/gin acts as a stabilizing agent and removes any lasting bitterness. The flavoring simply adds some taste. I like the taste of lemon best; I’ve also tried strawberry and nothing. Others have used almond, vanilla and other fruit or vegetable flavors. Experiment and find something you like.

I find it takes me about 15 minutes to make a batch, from getting the ingredients out to finishing the clean up.

I have not experimented with how long JoeGel will stay "fresh"; I've always used it within 4 or 5 days of making it. Since it is so easy to make, I just make what I'll need for a race or long training run and don't bother to keep it around.

How to carry it

This turned out to be the biggest problem to solve! How do you get the gel into a leak-proof, reopenable, compact form to fit in the pocket of running shorts? Sealing foil pouches just isn’t practical. I tried little plastic pouches for the gel version but couldn't make them handle well.

I ultimately opted to use the fluid version of JoeGel because I could easily put it into one of two carriers. For short runs, I picked up a small 3 oz shampoo travel container at a local discount store. For longer runs, I fill as much as I need in one of the 10 oz bottles on my water belt. A nice benefit of this is the complete lack of litter. The bottles also clean up easily.

I never have found a container to carry the gel version in a way I can also eat easily while running. If you find something, let me know, I'll add it here.

I’ve found I use about 1.5 oz of JoeGel per hour of distance running. Your mileage may vary.

Types of Containers for Fluid Version

How to modify JoeGel

I give you a starting point. If it looks like fun, play with it. I’d suggest the first thing to do is experiment with the flavor. By changing the kind and amount of flavor, you can get most any type and strength of flavor you’d like. If your stomach is sensitive, play with the carb mix…less fructose, more malt or vice-versa…thinner or thicker. My guess is you can find some proportion which will work for you.

Let me know how it works!

I hope this is helpful for you. Let me know how it works, either here or direct to me (see the sidebar).

And, as always, persevere.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Race Report: Sunburst Half Marathon 2011

ORN: 13.1 miles, 1:55:43

If any race has become a tradition for me, it's Sunburst. This was my seventh consecutive year to run either the half or full marathon in this event. And, as in the past, each year has had it's significance. The winding course from downtown South Bend, Indiana to a magnificent finish on the turf of Notre Dame Stadium brings a unique emotional experience for me, given my many ties to Notre Dame.

Finish Line at ND Stadium

Race day went the way it usually goes. I backed out of my garage at 4:05am, was parked across from the start line at 6:10am and had time to pick up my bib, get dressed and get set for the race.

My objective this year, unlike previous years, was to try to run a "fast" half for me anyway; I really wanted to be under 2 hours and hoped to be under 1:56. After doing 6 marathons in 7 months from October 2010 to April 2011, I was set for a bit of a different challenge. My recent training was focused on this objective. Even though the forecast for the day was for a high near 90, I figured I'd be done well before the temps got into the 80s. It was in the low 70s by the time I went for an easy two mile warm up run. But I decided to stay with the objective. I stretched well and was ready when the gun fired at 7:30am.

The plan called for no walking, just a steady 8:40 mile continuous running pace until we hit the big hill in mile 12, slog up it and then hang on to the finish. The first 7 miles went as planned...I was comfortable, relaxed and rolling with steady miles between 8:38 and 8:42. I didn't carry any water (another big switch from the marathon routine), so had to decide when to drink. By the third water stop, it was evident the day would be warm. I was taking water each time and dumping another cup on my head.

By mile 8, the temps were warming, rapidly. I could feel the energy sapping. My splits leaked a bit, with three miles in a row coming in at 8:45-48. The usual mental battles began.

The Big Hill arose, just past the Mile 11 marker. Nephew John and I dubbed this hill "Mount South Bend" (those of you who have traveled the flatlands of Indiana see the humor) and in most previous races, I have walked this incline. But this year, I shortened my stride and ran the whole thing. Amazingly, it got over a lot quicker than I remembered and I felt better than anticipated.

At that point, there was 2+ miles to go and I just started running by feel. I didn't really notice the pace on my watch the rest of the way. I just ran and reflected. The running was a joy and quite automatic. The reflection was much on my Dad and the wonderful way Notre Dame had an impact on him in the late 1930s. I ran for Dad, to identify (in some distant way) with the effort he must have expended on that same campus playing football for the Fighting Irish back in the leather-helmet days. I'm so grateful for him...I couldn't quit smiling as I rolled along the west side of the Stadium. The turn into the tunnel down to the field is just a marvelous experience and it was then a dead sprint for the finish line. While I was sure I'd be under 2 hours, I was stunned and thrilled to see 1:55:43 on my watch. I'd hit the goal, even on a hot humid day.

Each year, I relish just walking around the famous football field for a while. As usual, it's a chance to talk with others, compare notes and encourage each others. It also is a time to reflect on my own roots, so strong is my appreciation for my Dad. I truly miss being able to call my Dad and share this with him each year. Yet, I'm truly thankful that when he died in 1993, we had a relationship which had nothing left to say...we were in great friendship.

I finished up and headed home. I discovered on Sunday that the weather conditions got more hot and humid and the organizers had to "Black Flag" the race and shut it down about an hour after I finished. On reflection, it did seem to me I saw more runners than normal who were hurting and feeling the heat. Somehow, it didn't bother me but sure did have an impact on many.

The official results were also amazing. Overall, I was 267th out of 1455 finishers, the 82nd percentile. I was most big races, I'm lucky to be over the 40th percentile. Even more amazing was the age group results, where I was 4th of 51 guys age 55-59. Astounding. Things fell nicely for me in this one.

I have a 10K race in two weeks and am still working on my race schedule the rest of the year. That's fine, though..for the moment, I'm enjoying a good run in a fun race.

On the Field

Persevere. My dad sure did and I'm grateful for it.